What is in a name?

Shawnee Love   •  
January 20, 2010

Welcome to the Blog of Shawnee Love, Principal of Love HR. I am also President, Bookkeeper, Sales Manager, and Chief Sanitation Engineer amongst other flattering and not so flattering titles. Ahhh, but what is in a name? It turns out a lot!

Before I get into the importance of job titles, I want to share a classic story I have seen many times over the years. An employee is told that she is doing such a great job that she has been made manager. However, beyond that title change, nothing else changes. She has the same duties, same goals, same pay, and same perks. The company “rewards” her through a bigger title, and they don’t have to spend any extra money. The employee is happy because she was recognized for a job well done. Is this a win-win?

Maybe, but if it is, the win is extremely short lived. It won’t take long for that promotion afterglow to fade and the employee is left wondering why she is a manager and still making the salary of a clerk? She begins to feel taken advantage of.  (Why is she still processing paperwork?) Then she starts hunting for a new job and/or her productivity goes down. And as with all talented people, it won’t take long before she has found a new company to hire her and her old company has lost her knowledge and has to replace her. Now although the moral of this story might be don’t give a promotion in name only, the point of this discussion is to get you to consider the importance of job titles in your business.

So, what is in a name? Think about your own name for a second and what it means to you. It is your identity and who you are. Similarly, for many people, their job title is what they are and that is very important to them.

A good job title also helps people inside and outside your company to understand what each employee does and the level of responsibility each employee holds. Let’s look at an example from an accounting department. You might see a progression from accounting clerk, to accountant, to accounting manager to accounting director to accounting vice president to chief financial officer. And you also might see titles that further distinguish accounting areas like accounts payable clerk and accounts receivable clerk. Those progressive titles help external people (like clients and suppliers) know a bit more about the role and responsibilities of each employee they talk with. Additionally, job titles are steps on the career ladder and give your employees and idea of what they are aspiring towards. If you back up the job title with clear job descriptions, you have developed a tool to not only help you make good decisions for hiring, but also to help you and your employees see what they need to do to meet current performance expectations and to progress to the next level. More on job descriptions in future posts.

Good job titles have:

  • A consistent style and pattern of progression for your company,
  • Make sense in the marketplace, and
  • Indicate the duties and level of responsibility.

Although the titles that make sense for your business might be different from other businesses, if they meet these three criteria, you are on the right page.

And these criteria don’t mean that a job title can’t be creative or fun. I always wanted to be the Chief Morale Agent with visions of 007 and a mission to boost organizational culture only without gun play and high boots. Hmmm, maybe I will add that to my list of job titles.  President, Bookkeeper, Sales Manager, Chief Sanitation Engineer and Chief Morale Agent coming soon to a blog near you.